The final part of the letter begins with chapter 10. In that part (chapters 10-13) Paul defends his apostleship to the church in Corinth. This subject we already came across several times in the first chapters of this letter. Now the apostle elaborates on it.
He did not like this but it became necessary because the honor of his Sender and the wellbeing of the believers were at stake. Certain people had arrived in Corinth who presented themselves as apostles (so they were false apostles) and tried to put Paul in a bad light with the Corinthians. We will see how they went about it. They did this with the intention to separate the believers in Corinth from Paul and connect them to themselves. The sad thing was that the Corinthians listened to them.
It also happens today. One has a work among a group of believers and then other people come and denigrate that work and they do this to gain entry into that work with their selfish agenda. Perhaps you are also caught up in this trap to believe gossips. It is good to see how Paul responds to these impeachments. He does not beat his fist on the table to legitimize his authority. You can learn a lot from the way he exhorts the Corinthians. In this he follows the Lord Jesus in His footsteps.
V11Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!. That he takes this matter personally to heart he explains clearly saying: “Now I, Paul, myself.” He does this, not to defend his person, but his service. His attitude towards the Corinthians is an attitude of “meekness and gentleness”. This is a spiritual masterpiece. To keep one’s face like flint and react in such a way, is a real hard job. This is not possible unless you live close to the Lord. You can learn from Him Who said: “Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Mt 11:2929Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.).
Meekness and gentleness are not traits that are appreciated in the world. It is considered weakness there. In the world one must use high flown words and grandiose language to defend one’s position. People impress others to push their case. But an attitude of meekness and gentleness doesn’t mean that you are a wimp or a softy. The Lord Jesus also had great courage not to mince words but to call a spade a spade. He bluntly said to the pharisees and the scribes right to their face that they were hypocrites. So also Paul expresses himself clearly and authoritatively in his defense.
At the end of verse 11Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! Paul ironically quotes what the false apostles said about him. They said that he behaved very humbly when he was with the Corinthians but had a big mouth when he was a far away from them.
V22I ask that when I am present I [need] not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh.. Paul says that he does not hope that it would be necessary to prove that this representation of him is pulled out of thin air. He wants to give in an unequivocal manner a strongly worded answer to the people who accused him of walking “according to the flesh”. To walk “according to flesh” means to speak and act from fleshly motives. But that was not the way Paul wanted to deal with things that came up against him.
V3-43For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.. That he walked “in the flesh” was not anything special, for flesh here means body. Every man walks in the flesh.
The warfare Paul had to do with – and which every Christian has to do with – is not a battle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers. This battle cannot be fought with carnal resources. Ephesians 6 speaks about the armor with which the spiritual battle must be fought (Eph 6:10-2010Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places].13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.14Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil [one].17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,19and [pray] on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,20for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in [proclaiming] it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.). There you will find spiritual weapons such as ‘the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God’, and ‘prayer’. These are not weapons of the flesh but powerful weapons for God. With them you can achieve victory and destroy the strongholds of the enemy.
V55[We are] destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and [we are] taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,. What these strongholds are, you read in this verse. They are “speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God”. Summarized in one word it is the pride of man. Such man is always busy seeking arguments in everything for his own advantage. It never occurs to him to acknowledge that God is above him and everything. You come across this attitude when you share the gospel with people. Of course we cannot expect anything else from unbelievers but unfortunately this is prevalent even among believers. Paul writes to such people.
The Corinthians came under the influence of such people. These intrusions, the spirit of thinking and speaking which gained entry among the Corinthians could be overcome only by the power of God. As for the world they are foolish weapons used by the believing warriors.
To the world the Bible is an ancient book and praying is a sign of weakness. The inhabitants of Jericho may have laughed themselves sick when the Israelites marched around their city once every day for six days and even seven times on the seventh day. Every time they finished one round nothing happened. How foolish it would have appeared to do the same again the next day. But on the seventh day while they were on the seventh round suddenly it happened. The walls came tumbling down. The people took Jericho which was said to be invincible. They defeated the mighty city with its high walls not in their own strength but by doing exactly what the Lord told them to do.
The method might have looked foolish in the eyes of the inhabitants of Jericho but that was the way to victory. This is the way Paul also wanted to destroy the fortresses of the enemies in Corinth. In this way in the power of God – not in your own strength – you can also conquer people who appear to be invincible.
Paul would come to Corinth and share his strategy which would, he expected, help Christians taking “captive” every imagination of the false apostles who brought the Corinthians under their influence. The wrong thinking is called the enemy here. The thoughts formed in their brain were considered huge dangers against the believers. They brought them to a wrong path, a path that did not lead them to Christ but to their own self. The only solution was to take those thoughts into captivity.
Paul wanted to show them what were the intentions of the false apostles, what stood before their eyes, and he wanted to direct the thinking of the Corinthians back to Christ and make them obedient to Christ. That was the goal of his own life, and this goal stood before his eyes for everyone who was converted through his ministry.
You also, keep this goal before your eyes. Don’t give in to all kinds of impressing speeches of people who have a great show, but who don’t direct your thoughts on Christ. The touchstone to appraise if your work is done in the right way is to test if your work redounds to the glory of God and if it magnifies the Lord Jesus.
V66and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.. Paul was ready to punish all disobedience. Disobedience is the basic sin in the believer’s life that can in no way be tolerated. Paul in his wisdom did not punish disobedience immediately. First the Corinthians had to show that they obeyed his first letter in everything. Even when it comes to pointing out and condemning the wrong things patience is necessary. Not all wrong issues were taken up immediately and addressed simultaneously.
Don’t you also agree that the Lord was patient with you and led you step by step on the path of obedience? And that He endured so many wrong things you committed until the moment when He showed them to you, and you in turn could condemn them and put them away?
Now read 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 again.
Reflection: What are the strongholds in your life that still need to be pulled down?